A soon to be published book from Princeton Architectural Press may be just what every psychologist and historian of psychology has been waiting for to adorn their coffee table. Psychobook is a lavishly illustrated volume documenting the history of psychological testing.
As a recent piece in The New Yorker puts it,
“Psychobook” comprises an eclectic assortment of tests from the early twentieth century to the present, along with new artworks and whimsical questionnaires inspired by the originals. These materials are interlaced with vintage and contemporary photographs, portraits, collages, and film stills of psychologists analyzing patients or staring incisively into space, sometimes in idiosyncratically decorated Manhattan offices. It’s not immediately clear why this book exists, but it would probably look great in a therapist’s waiting room.
Put it on your wish list now.
The University of Toronto Scientific Instrument Collection’s Kira Lussier writes on the history of the Rorschach (and other projective tests) at UofT, and its uptake in popular culture. Read her full piece here.
Linda Beebe, the senior director of PsycINFO (the psychology search engine), has written a brief history describing the evolution of the world’s premiere resource for psychological literature. [Update: the original link is no longer accessible; see a cached version here.] It provides a fascinating look at a part of the discipline that we often take for granted.
PsycINFO began in 1967 with the first electronic publication of the bibliographic records included in that year’s print Psychological Abstracts. The ability to produce an electronic product so early in the computing revolution came about as a result of grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a Scientific Information Exchange Project.
In 1965 the APA Publications Board approved an experimental study of the feasibility of producing Psychological Abstracts by the Photon process, which would yield magnetic tapes that could be used for information retrieval.
The production process was crude by today’s standards, as the electronic output was the result of a long paper-and-pencil creation process. However, when implemented in 1966, it greatly changed nearly everything about the production of Psychological Abstracts….
With a monthly, rather than a bimonthly, publication schedule, lag times were cut dramatically from as much as 3 years to as little as 3 months. The quantity of abstracts published also increased, moving from 8,381 in 1963 to 13,622 in 1966; and by the end of the decade the annual output had risen to 18,068….
In 1980 PsycINFO published 31,764 abstracts in electronic form…. By 1989, the annual total had grown to 52,442 abstracts….
The million-record mark was reached in 1995. Now there are more than 3 million records. Many of these link directly to PDF and HTML full-text, through the PsycARTICLES database. Continue reading Brief History of PsycINFO
How great would the harm be if nearly everyone on earth could get free access to all of the figures from the famous Rorschach ink blot test, along with examples of the answers that would be expected? This is the topic of a new article by Noam Cohen of the New York Times.
Images of the ten ink blots have been posted to the Wikipedia entry about the test, first published by its inventor Hermann Rorschach in 1921, along with an account of the popular Exner scoring system. Although the plates are long out of copyright in the US, the outcry from some psychologists has been fervent. Continue reading Rorschach + Wikipedia = Big Fight
In a recent issue of History of Human Relations, 21(4), Simon Cohn (pictured left) explored the ways in which subjective experiences have been captured objectively through the use of brain-imaging techniques. In his examination, he discovered a potential problem.
Although hidden from final scientific accounts, at the centre of this [imaging] process is the need for the researchers to forge brief but intimate and personal relationships with the volunteers in their studies. With their increasing interest in studying more and more complex mental processes, and in particular as researchers focus on what they term ‘the social brain’, a potential paradox arises from the commitment to the straightforward location of brain function and recognition of the more distributed and intersubjective nature of the objects of their study. Consequently, in order to elicit specific mental activities, such as empathy, the scientists inevitably employ a range of socially based resources, which includes establishing a personal relationship with the volunteers. The scientists themselves see this as ensuring that they can trust that the volunteers will participate in the ways intended. But in contrast, the article argues that the central feature is actually the creation of a sense of intimacy, which serves to align the expectations and experiences of volunteer and researcher. Yet, while this relationship is necessary in order to ensure the required mental state is generated, during the experiment itself a great deal of work is then done to ensure it can be excluded from the final conceptualization of mental activity. (From the abstract.)
In other words, Cohn examines the issue of how “objective measures” can be derived from what is a necessarily an inter-subjective process.
See also: Anatomy of an Invention: The Case of MRI